‘When the facts change, I change my mind,’ John Maynard Keynes is (wrongly) claimed to have said. Whatever the origin of the quote, Theresa May seems to be taking it to heart – and, as a floating voter, I’m delighted. But it seems there aren’t many who share that view, given that May’s shifting stance on certain issues became such a major focus of her interview with Jeremy Paxman last night.
I used to be a Lib Dem so I am fully aware of the kind of horror that a U-turn on major policy can bring. However, sometimes it can also show a quite sensible approach. After all, we all regularly change our opinions based on new information and experience. Why should we not afford politicians that same right? In fact, if we should want anyone to adapt, it should be them.
For many years now, people have been demanding that politicians admit mistakes or at least be willing to change their minds. Now that we have a PM willing to do just that, it seems like a rather grotesque irony that it’s being used against her. I do not share the PM’s ‘citizen of the world, citizen of nowhere’ worldview. However, like her, I am a Remainer who accepts that we lost that argument and need to move on and find a way to make a success of Brexit. That is called dealing with reality, not shifting opinion.
May is also criticised for changing her view on holding an election. Yet doing so shows a respect for democracy and a desire for legitimacy that is commendable. Political reality has set in and she has shifted her position to deal with it. Politically naive perhaps, but hardly a horrific volte face.
One aspect that does need explaining, and that does deserve serious criticism, is the mess over social care. The policy weakened a Prime Minister who was, until recently, cruising unblemished through the campaign. That said, I’d rather a mistake in such a vital policy area was improved at this stage, rather than a May government, if elected, ploughing stubbornly on in the wrong direction.
It turns out this lady is for turning, and in our increasingly stunted political debate that is a very good thing indeed.